Keeping Baby Safe in the Summer Sun
I think it’s safe to say that while summer is officially a few weeks away, the summer weather is already in full swing here in the Valley of the Sun. If this is your first summer with baby, or you are looking for refreshers, it’s important to know how to properly protect your little one from the sun.
Of course, no parent wants their baby to be harmed by the sun. We all take the precautions we can. But some of the simplest tips may be getting overlooked.
For example (and here’s the part where I get really honest and vulnerable), when my third baby was two months old, we took him on our annual family camping glamping trip in San Diego. We were diligent about keeping him in the shade at all times, but what I didn’t take into account – chalk it up to Mommy brain or simply not thinking about it – was the sun’s reflection off the light-colored cement and glossy finish of the tarps.
I had SO much guilt that week when my newborn was sporting a sunburn after snoozing in my arms under the pop-up canopy while we watched the bigger kids play in the sun. I thought I had taken all the precautions, so I felt like the world’s worst mom when I realized what had happened. There were tears – mine, not his.
Thankfully, he didn’t seem to be too bothered by the burn and he recovered very quickly, but it drove home for me just how susceptible our babies are to sun damage. Needless to say we stayed completely inside the RV for the rest of the trip.
It is a parent’s instinct to protect their baby from harm, but skin cancer experts report that babies and toddlers are overwhelmingly being exposed to skin cancer risks via sunburn.
And it only takes one bad childhood sunburn to potentially double the child’s risk of melanoma – a deadly skin cancer – later in life.
When to Avoid the Sun
An infant’s skin is super sensitive in the first six months of life, so the recommendation is to keep them out of the sun whenever possible rather than use sunscreen.
It is especially important to avoid the peak sun hours of 10am to 4pm for any age. Seriously. Learn from my mistake. Just stay indoors.
During this part of the day, avoid any direct sun exposure and stay in the shade. If you need to be out, stick to the shady side of the street and be sure to use sun protectant gear such as the canopy on your stroller or the hood on your baby wearing device.
How to Dress Your Baby for the Sun
It’s tempting to strip down to as little clothing as possible, but experts at skincancer.org agree that this can increase the danger of sun exposure, especially for a newborn. Instead, dress your baby in light-weight, light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants to shield their skin from direct sunlight.
And don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat. This will keep the sun off your baby’s face and scalp and provide shade to places like their neck and chest, too. Sunglasses are an often overlooked accessory, but they aren’t just cute, they protect your little’s eyes from sun damage. Infant sunglasses usually come with soft elastic straps instead of hard plastic frames.
When to Use Sunscreen
You can safely introduce sunscreen into your baby’s regular sun safe regimen at 6 months old and apply sunscreen to all exposed areas.
However, the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics have been revised to say that if adequate shade and clothing coverage aren’t available and sun exposure is unavoidable for a baby younger than 6 months, it is recommended that parents apply a minimal amount of baby-safe sunscreen to small areas of an infant’s body such as the face, back of hands, and tops of feet.
Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours or less. If you’re in the water, apply more frequently.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen for Baby
When choosing a sunscreen for baby, anything is better than nothing. However, we’re blessed to have shelves stocked with every kind of sunscreen at all of our local grocery stores as well as big-box stores, and specialty sunscreens are just a click away online.
Choose a sunscreen that is:
* made specifically for children
* water resistant (even if you aren’t planning on your baby getting wet, this can help with sweat resistance)
* labeled “broad spectrum” which means it protects against UVA and UVB rays
* at least SPF 15 (however, experts advise against any sunscreen higher than SPF 50, as they can actually provide poorer quality protection with a false sense of security)
A sunscreen formula that is mostly zinc oxide or titanium dioxide will be hypoallergenic and provide excellent protection. Be prepared that these ingredients don’t rub in as readily, though, as they are designed to sit atop the skin instead of absorbing into it.
To check for allergic reaction to sunscreen, apply a small amount to the inside of your child’s forearm and watch for rash or hives 48 hours before applying to the rest of their body and going outdoors.
A sunscreen lotion is the best way to provide full coverage because you can see what areas have been reached or not. However, a sunscreen stick is a great option for faces and the part in your child’s hair.
Spray sunscreen is popular, but may be harmful if breathed in and is more difficult to ensure even coverage. We can’t deny that this can be an easier route for a wiggly baby or toddler, though, so if this is your sunscreen of choice, take care to apply liberally and evenly. Do not spray the sunscreen directly into your baby’s face; instead, spray it into your hands and apply by hand.
Babies of Color Need Sun Protection, Too
Babies and children of all skin tones need sun protection. People with darker skin colors develop significantly fewer skin cancers than people with fair skin, but the experts say that if they do develop skin cancer, it is more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage and have a worse prognosis.
Also worth noting is that infant and toddler skin has less melanin (pigment) that provides some sun protection as their skin gets darker later in life.
Preventing Dehydration in Baby
Babies younger than six months do not need additional water and you should never dilute a bottle of breast milk or formula with water unless specifically recommended by your pediatrician.
Babies get their hydration from breast milk or formula. You may notice your baby wants to nurse more often or have an additional bottle if they’re exposed to sun or heat for a prolonged period of time, and that’s okay.
From six months, babies may have a few sips of water. Older babies, nine months and up, can have a few ounces of water a day.
From all of us at Phoenix Family Birth, we wish you a very cool and safe summer season with your baby!
Tags: baby sunscreen, summer safety, summer safety tips, sun safety, sunscreen for baby